(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 10/23.)
You can see why Victor Hugo attracts the makers of musicals: his novels are almost excessively theatrical. After Boublil and Schönberg’s Les Misérables and Lionel Bart’s Quasimodo, we now have a new version of L’Homme qui rit (1869), already twice filmed, with a score by Tim Phillips and Marc Teitler and a book by Carl Grose. Although it still needs work, it makes for a wonderfully weird, macabre musical.
The novel is specifically set in late 17th-century England which, in Grose’s version, becomes a mythical Bristol. The disfigured hero, Grinpayne, is employed as a fairground freak, is loved by a sightless girl and aches to learn how his face came to be lacerated.